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  Egyptian Gods as Metaphors

  by John Van Auken

The gods of ancient Egypt are metaphors for key aspects of the origin and destiny of humanity. According to Edgar Cayce’s discourses, the average citizen of ancient Egypt understood the hidden message better than we do today. Cayce further states that the characters and imagery in the Book of Revelation were also metaphors for hidden messages, and some disciples knew that and understood the Revelation better than we do today.

Here are brief insights into the hidden meaning of several key Egyptian gods.

    RA, the Sun
    The Presence
    In Our Father's House
    Spiritual Mysticism

  The Light of an Idea

    Evil & the Devil

  Egyptian Gods as Metaphors

    God & the Godlings

  Interpretating the Revelation



The Sun is the source and sustainer of life, penetrator of the darkness, warmer of the cold, nurturer of the seed deep in the soil. Its rays reach out through the darkness of space and night, and give warmth, light, and life to all they touch. This is Ra (originally pronounced, “ray”). Ra is the most high God. Out of the great "Ray" came countless little rays, known as the sons and daughters of Ra. They are godlings from the one God, created in its image and destined to fill all the cosmos with light and life.

HERMES, the Moon

As the rays or godlings went forth, some lost their connectedness to the great Ra. They moved too far into darkness. Their light dimmed. The darkness overcame them. Their faces turned away from the original light. All they saw were the shadows of life. They needed help. Some power needed to help them recall the original light, the original way, the original purpose. This was the power of the moon god Thoth, or Hermes in Greek. This power reflects the light to all things that have turned away from the direct light.

Hermes is most often depicted as a powerful god with an ibis head. The ibis is a bird who lives on the shore between the two worlds of the deep water and the land. The two worlds are emblems of the subconscious and conscious minds. The power to live between these two is seen as important to living the true life. Another little characteristic of the ibis is that it is one of the few birds that can eat the serpent. Again, an important metaphor for the developing godlings to recognize the need to control their lower, self-seeking urges if they are to reunite with the creator and the original purpose.

The ancient Egyptian is not speaking of the form and function of the sun and moon in the third dimension. He is speaking of their meaning in dimensions of mind and spirit. In dimensions beyond the third, the sun and moon are emblems of deeper powers. For the ancient Egyptian, light is consciousness -- a knowing, understanding consciousness. Darkness is unconsciousness. Living in moonlight is semi-consciousness, or self-consciousness with no sense of oneness or connectedness with the source of light.

This teaching is expanded by the hidden message behind the outward passage of the Sun. The rising sun represents the beginning: light dawned in the still, silent darkness -- exactly as the sun rises in the morning. This dawning light penetrated the darkness and continued to its zenith, exactly as the sun rises through the morning to noon. Throughout this period all faces are turned toward the sun, receiving warmth, light, and life. The creator’s power penetrates everything. Then, something changes. The created, the godlings in Ra’s image, move away from the creator in order to know themselves, find themselves. The earth and the created move toward dusk. Shadows begin to fall and lengthen. The created are left to themselves. Darkness falls. Through the night souls deal with their innermost urges, while danger nips at their heels, like a little serpent. In Egyptian lore this little serpent is Apep, who nips at the heels of Ra as he traverses the underworld of night and death, seeking the horizon of resurrection and rebirth. There are many temptations, many pitfalls. But, if the godlings hold in their hearts the lightness of hope, trust, and selflessness, then they will become light of heart and as a result they will glide above the serpent’s bite and find the new horizon. The sun will break through the night reclaiming all who are still looking, still believing.

Throughout the dark night of the souls, the moon helps remind them of the continual existence of the true light. Despite the darkness, the sun has never moved. We have moved. If one looks at the moon and intuits the source of its light, then one knows the sun still exists, the creator still exists, and will look to the returning dawn.

ISIS & NEPTHYSIS, the two Guardians

To help with this great journey into darkness, two guardians watch over each ray as it travels the earth, the underworld, and the lower heavens. In Ancient Egypt, these guardians are Isis and her sister Nepthysis. Isis is the power to hold the thought of the Throne of God within one’s mind, whether it be only a faint memory or a vivid image. She is often depicted with the Throne of God on her head or mind. Nepthysis is the magical power to know that the unseen forces are more powerful than the seen, despite the appearance to the contrary. She is often depicted with a bowl-like receptacle on a pedestal upon her head or mind.

These two sisters are in every death scene, at the head and foot of the body of the deceased. They are powerful influences to help the freed soul find its way to the higher realms, higher truths. They are also seen standing behind the great god of the underworld, Osiris, pass whom all must go if they are to enter the heavens. His judgment is exact; one’s heart must be as light as a feather. If not, then one sinks into the underworld and cycles through the darkness to another dawn, and another opportunity to free oneself from heavy-heartedness.

ANUBIS, the sixth sense

When one has taken a long journey away from home, one can lose the trail home. If one cannot find or recall the way home, then one needs help. Anubis, the jackal-headed god, is the symbol of that help. The jackal can pick up the scent of the trail traversed to get here, and therefore the way home. At every death scene in ancient Egypt, Anubis is depicted. He is the sixth sense that recalls the way home.

OSIRIUS & SET, the two brothers’ tale

In Egyptian lore two brothers were born. One loved God and cooperated lovingly with the creation. The other pursued self-seeking urges and interests, and took advantage of the creation, giving little thought to the consequences of his actions and appetites. In Egypt these two brothers were Osirius and Set (sometimes called “Seth,” and from which some Pharaohs took the name “Seti”). Just as in the biblical story of Cain and Able, Set grew jealous of Osirius and killed him.

ISIS, Conceiver of the Messiah

One of the greatest gods among the hosts of godlings was Isis. She was strong, enduring, and clever. She was not to follow the weaknesses of most of her fellow gods, seeking to mingle with the sons and daughters of man and their carnal sensations.

Behold, Isis was in the form of a woman, skilled in words. Her heart rebelled at the millions of men, she chose rather the millions of the gods, and she esteemed the millions of the spirits. She meditated in her heart, "Could I not be in heaven and earth like Ra, and make myself mistress of the earth and a goddess by knowing the name of the holy God?"

Isis had many adventures, but the greatest were the resurrection of Osiris, the conception and birthing of Horus, and her struggles with Set, the destroyer. The story goes like this:

Isis began as a modest divinity of the Delta (Isris). Because of her intense seeking to maintain godliness in the midst of humanness, she interacted with the great god Ra. From him she cleverly gained wisdom and power (much to his surprise). After Ra returned to the heavens, the god Osiris, her elder brother in the family of gods, chose her as his consort and she shared the throne with him. She helped him, as she had Ra, civilize the earthly ones. She taught the art of curing disease, of growing corn, spinning flax and weaving cloth, and marrying to form a home in order to bring about some semblance of heaven in this faraway place.

When Osiris went on a great journey around the earth, she remained as regent of Egypt. She ruled so wisely and well that their younger brother Set could not take over. However, Set was full of self-seeking desires and so he cunningly convinced his older and trusting brother Osiris to lie down in a coffin, whereupon he killed Osiris, sealed the coffin and cast it into the Nile, which carried it out to sea. It came to rest on a distant shore at the base of a tamarisk tree. The tree grew around the coffin, concealing it entirely within its trunk. When the tree was cut down by the king of that distant land, it gave off such an exquisite fragrance that its reputation spread around the world, eventually reaching Isis' ears. When she heard of this fragrant tree, she knew immediately that it was the essence of Osiris. When she arrived in that land, the queen, Astarte, entrusted her newborn son into Isis' care. Isis would have conferred immortality upon the child if the mother hadn't broken the spell by her anguished cries of terror when she saw Isis bathe the baby in purifying flames. In order to calm the mother, Isis reveals her true identify and intentions. The mother then convinces her husband, the king, to give the trunk of the magnificent tree to Isis.

Isis drew forth the coffin from the tree, and the body from the coffin. She bathed it in her tears and hid the body in the marshes. But Set found the body and cut it into fourteen pieces, scattering them far and wide. Isis, never discouraged, began a patient search for the precious fragments, finding all of them but the phallus, which had been eaten by a creature of the earth who is forever cursed for this crime.

In a magical, mystical intermingling with the reconstructed, reanimated body of Osiris, Isis conceives a child that will grow to be the true heir to the throne, contesting Set's claim to it. She then performs the first rites of embalming, restoring Osiris to eternal life, ruler of the netherworld. She is assisted in this rite by her sister Nephthys (who is also the wife of Set), her nephew Anubis (who appears in all death scenes to lead the deceased through the darkness), by Thoth, and even by the yet unborn Horus.

When Set hears of this, he captures her and imprisons her. With the help of Thoth, she conceals her pregnancy from Set and escapes. She hides Horus in the marshes, raising him in secret until he is strong enough to challenge Set (recalling the raising of the baby Moses, who eventually challenges Pharaoh).

However, she has no means of supporting herself and her baby, so she hides baby Horus among the reeds and goes begging all day. One day, returning from begging, she finds baby Horus writhing in pain and near death. Though unable to enter the marshes in his real form, Set had assumed the form of a serpent and bitten the baby. Isis is in despair. Now, feeling all alone in this world -- her father and mother dead, her husband in the netherland, her younger brother Set attacking her at every turn, and her sister Nephthys married to Set -- there appears to be no one who can help her. Isis therefore appeals to all mankind, calling on the marshdwellers and the fishermen, all of whom come immediately to her aid, weeping in sympathy, but powerless to help her against Set's magic. Horus, symbolizing the purity and innocence of the developing true heir, is now contaminated by the poison of the cunning, self-seeking Set. This is the poison that separates everyone who seeks self’s own desires without concern for God's.

Finally, Isis calls on the Most High God to intervene on behalf of everything that is pure and true. The "Boat of Millions of Years" draws level to her and interrupts its journey for her. From out of the barque (boat) descends Thoth. After expressing surprise that her magic is not able to cleanse the child of the poison, he assures her that the power of Ra is at her disposal.

Here Isis is meeting her own karma, for it was she who long ago caused a serpent to bite Ra. Now her treasured child lies poisoned and dying before her and she needs Ra's power to cure him.

Thoth tells Isis that when the barque stopped for her and Horus, the Sun stopped and darkness came over all. The darkness will not be dispelled until the barque moves again and the Sun shines again. She and Thoth realize the significance of the sun's stopping until Horus is cured: it means that if Horus dies, Ra's whole creation will be annihilated and Set, the principle of evil and the consciousness of darkness, will reign forever. Isis wishes that she were Horus herself so that she would not have to see the consequences of his death. Thoth, however, declares that the magical protection enjoyed by Horus will henceforth be equal to that of the Sun. Then, in the name of the Ra, Thoth exorcises the poison from Horus' body, saying that the boat of Ra will stand still, that there will be no food, that the temples will be closed, that misery will never depart from the world, that eternal darkness will reign, that the wells will be dry, that there will be no crops and no vegetation until Horus is cured. This powerful spell of the sun-god Ra, spoken by the moon-god Thoth, conquers the poison, and Isis and all mankind rejoice. Thoth then commends the child into their care, saying that Horus is now the responsibility of all those who live on earth.

This legend repeats the recurring theme of a great and perfect creature who is misguided into activities that lead to its loss -- sometimes the loss is in the form of death, sometimes in banishment, sometimes in consciousness. Then, one who loves the creature gives all their being to rebirth or resurrect the lost one. This often takes the form of impregnating oneself with the seed of the lost one and giving birth to its heir. The young heir to the original creation is always in danger of being poisoned, imprisoned, or misguided by the forces that brought down the original creature. It takes enduring effort to bring the heir to age in one piece. Then, the heir overthrows the deceiver and rules forever -- the perfect creation again, one generation removed, and presumably wiser.

This theme can be found in stories of most cultures on the earth. It is the story of the children of God, who lost their way and must, through great effort and many trials, become heirs to their previous glory and destiny.

In this specific legend, Osiris is the original perfect one. Isis is the mind and will that resurrects him in the seed of the womb of her consciousness. Horus is the heir, always symbolized in the same manner as Ra because he represents the living manifestation of Ra (as did Osiris) and the heir to Ra's creation. Set represents the deceiver, the ego, the self-seeking aspect of every person. It destroys the perfect Osiris, wrestles with the struggling Isis (the mind and will) and poisons the growing Horus. But, enduring, Horus becomes the messiah that overcomes Set's influence, forever -- with a little help from heaven (in the form of Thoth/Hermes and the boat of father Ra).

HORUS, the higher mind and messiah

Because the rays or projections of consciousness from the original consciousness have penetrated many aspects of the darkness, there needs to be a new delineation. Therefore, consciousness is identified in three levels. That which is the closest to the personal self, that which bridges the personal self to the original self, and that which is in the image of the original self, the godling, the son or daughter of Ra. We use the terms conscious, subconscious, and superconscious to identify these levels of the mind.


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